Once upon a time, long, long ago… I was a girl with body image issues and an emotionally crippling eating disorder. There was a void inside of me that I didn’t know how to fill, coupled with an overwhelming desperation to be perfect. One day my dad and mom sat me down to have a long chat about their fears for me and my future if I continued down that path, so I begrudgingly chose to turn down a new one. After years of reading, writing, talking, screaming, crying, laughing dancing, yoga and self discovery, a little spark inside of me, that I didn’t even know was there, gathered strength and turned into a full-fledged flame.
It’s been over a decade since that sad, scared little girl was put on the spot and challenged to make a choice for change. It’s been… harrowing… to say the least, but I’ve done it. I’ve learned to love and truly value myself in such a way that I can wake up and go to sleep with a genuinely joyful heart, rather than haunted by thoughts of “there’s something wrong with me.”
Body image issues are something that haunt so many of us. They’re insidious. The world has conditioned us to seek out and focus on our flaws and imperfections, and allow those to identify who we are: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We are sold the belief that who we are naturally, at our very core, is not enough. And that is just not true. Who we are, at conception, the part of us that stays constant throughout our lives until we die… and arguably even beyond that… is more than enough. “Enough” isn’t even a concept that could apply. We just Are. Plenty. Everything. We are all intricately unique and exactly the same. We carry our own individual burdens and share the exact same worries and cares as our neighbors (including the ones on the other side of the world). When we zoom-out and see who we are as a whole and as part of the whole, we are often able to enjoy a shift in perspective.
How do you start the healing process and the journey toward self-love? It’s simple, but profound, and far from easy. It requires a great deal of diligence, perseverance and resolve. It may sound daunting, but nothing is more worth the time and effort. We need to create new habits, to replace the old. In yoga, we call these habits samskaras. Begin with your physical body, if that’s where your mind automatically goes. When you look in the mirror, identify at least one thing you appreciate about yourself. I started with my eyes. I could always look in the mirror and appreciate that I had beautiful, unique, expressive eyes. That immediately lessened the brutal pain of everything else I thought wasn’t “good enough,” to make it bearable. Eventually I added my ears, my collar bone, my belly button… until the list of likes was longer than the list of gripes.
My yoga practice helped me develop a keen appreciation for the way my body was built. I realized why my legs were “thicker” than I wanted them to be. They’re amazing for balancing. I can balance on one leg longer than anyone would ever have a need to, and I think that’s pretty fucking cool. They’re also great for carrying me up a steep climb on my hiking adventures. Who knew? Well, I did, I just hadn’t been paying attention.
Once I gained a solid appreciation for my body and created space to focus on other things, I began to work on my mind. I am a voracious reader. For years, I read every book on self-love and self-development I could get my hands on, in an attempt to understand where all of this negativity was coming from. Yoga introduced me to a practice called svadhyaya, which means self-study. Through consistent svadhyaya, I became increasingly self-aware. I began identifying specific self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors, and systematically replacing those habits with ones that served me. Understanding the root of your insecurities is a very powerful weapon in fighting fear. When you know the nature of the monster under your bed, you know better how to combat it. I also became relentless about actively choosing love over fear. That was challenging, but insanely powerful. I continue to choose love every single day.
Next came my soul, my spirit, the “essence” that has been with me since day one and will (hopefully) carry on after my body and mind are through. I grew up with a vague idea of a “soul,” but it was more conceptual than anything. I never experienced it on a personal level… until one day I did. I had a moment of enlightenment, for lack of a better word, during a guided meditation. I believe that moment was the result of my culminated efforts, my desire, an open heart, open mind…and all the stars being aligned. It provided the missing piece. Suddenly, pure love and joy were emanating from deep within. Since that moment, nothing has been the same.
In brief, the journey toward healing and self-love can be a long one, full of countless victories and set-backs. My journey extended over a decade, but I don’t regret a single day. You need to show up for yourself. You need to be relentless. You need to have courage. And you need to have faith. Everything you need to overcome the pain and fear running your life is already inside you. Everything. When you lose sight of this fact and need a reminder, ask for help. Reach out. Talk about what’s going on for you. There are so many beautiful people in the world who are here to help you on your way. There is so much joy to be felt, so much love to share, so much life to celebrate. Don’t deny yourself one more moment of that than you absolutely must. You deserve joy. You deserve peace. You deserve love. Just because you’re you. Now, go out and claim it.
Author: Natalie Backman
Author Bio: A native of the Pacific Northwest, Natalie is currently teaching yoga in southern California sharing her passion for the healing properties of this ancient practice with as many people as she can. Her students range from age 5 to 86 and her message is always the same. There is a light in the center of your heart, which can never go out. That light is the true essence of who you are. When you are in touch with that light, joy and love become the staples of your life.
Link to social media or website: http://www.NatalieBackmanYoga.com